EppsNet Archive: Work

More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Second-Guessers

8 Feb 2016 /
Super Bowl 50

I spent my lunch hour listening to co-workers second guess the Panthers offensive play-calling in yesterday’s Super Bowl. I don’t like second-guessers, for a couple of reasons.

  1. Once a game is over, it’s easy to say the team that lost should have done something different. Feel free to advance any theory you want since there’s no way to wind back the clock and falsify it. It’s like taking a test when you already know the answers. It gives you an opportunity to make yourself sound smarter than the people who had to take the test without knowing the answers.
  2. What are the odds that someone with his fat ass parked on a sofa watching the game really came up with a better play-calling strategy than the coaching staff of a team with 17 wins and 1 loss?

Free Advice on Free Advice

5 Feb 2016 /
Shoulder pain

Today a colleague offered to fix the pain in my shoulder. “Sounds like a problem with the connective tissue,” he said. “I can push it back into place.”

“No,” I said. “No no no no no no no.”

“Why not? Are you homophobic?”

“Not wanting you to touch my shoulder is not homophobic.” Also this guy is not gay.

“You don’t trust me?”

“I was trying to think of a nice way to say that.”

“I have a gift for this. I’ve helped a lot of people.”

“You might be able to fix it. Probably you could. On the other hand, you might, just perhaps, push on it the wrong way and I lose the use of my left arm. Not worth the risk.”

He then recommended that I go to a health food store and buy some red something-or-other algae to use as an anti-inflammatory.

Which I’m not going to do . . . If someone recommends a movie I should see, I might check that out. Even if it turns out to be terrible, which it usually does, I’ve only lost a few bucks and a couple hours of time. Same with a restaurant. Or a book.

But on medical matters, when someone says “You should go to a health food store and buy some of this product and eat it,” I’m not going to do that because if I do that, and I die . . . because the recommender didn’t know anything about my health condition, medical history, medications I might be taking, didn’t know anything about chemistry, biology, pharmacology . . . I’m dead and the person who told me to do that is scratching his head going, “Hmmmm, that never happened before. Maybe I should have gone to medical school to actually learn something.”


Spartans Are Overrated

1 Feb 2016 /
Spartan Race logo

Some of my work colleagues participated in a Spartan Race this past weekend, which seems like a good way to acquire a bacterial infection but to each his own.

Slightly off-topic but Spartans didn’t fight very well and instead of fleeing, they let themselves all be killed by Persians . . . so I’ve always wondered why Spartans have become synonymous with positive qualities like commitment and toughness and resilience, instead of being remembered as milksops with cool headgear . . .


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

14 Dec 2015 /

My desk at the office. Note the festive poinsettia!

Looks like Christmas


Accoutrements at the New Office

9 Dec 2015 /
3-star ball

The new office comes with a chef, who seems to see himself like one of those celebrity chefs with the quirky personalities.

Not to put a damper on the fun but I like my chefs to be unobstrusive. I just want a bite to eat. I don’t want to manage a new interaction with an eccentric reality show wannabe.

Just dish up the grub, man.

 

We also have a ping-pong table now, which triggers a lengthy discussion of the intricacies of table tennis equipment, conducted for some reason in the midst of a group of people trying to get some work done.

Three-star balls? I got your three-star balls right here . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.


More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of

6 Dec 2015 /

Americans are the fattest, dumbest people on earth . . . and because being fat and dumb are remediable given the proper motivation, it’s fair to say that Americans are also the most unmotivated people on earth.

This is not to say that all Americans are fat, dumb and unmotivated. There’s a subset of Americans who get up every morning, brush their teeth, go to work, excel at what they do, come home, set the alarm and get up and do it again tomorrow. And take care of their families. These people are carrying the rest of the country on their backs.

But for the average American, the best explanation for his or her life being the way it is is likely to be “I’m fat, dumb and unmotivated.” That’s a pretty tough admission to spit out though so most of us look around for something more palatable to sell to ourselves and others, like (if you’re a non-white person) “white privilege.”

 

There’s no way to have a polite conversation around phrases like “white privilege” because no one likes being categorized into a group and then insulted as an undifferentiated mass. If you’re tempted to use “white privilege” in a conversation as something other than a provocation or an alibi, help out your listeners by saying what it means to you and provide some recent examples from your own life.

I have to admit that the concept of white privilege doesn’t resonate with me given the benefits that have accrued to me personally as a white person (none that I know of) and the frequency with which I personally observe behavior that strikes me as racially motivated (never).

 

Barack Obama was elected in 2012 with 51 percent of the popular vote66 million people willing to hire a black man to the most powerful job in the country. And that’s an artificially low number because not everyone of voting age actually votes. In 2012, more than 100 million eligible voters did not vote.

Projecting 51 percent Obama support over the entire voting-age population gives us a number well over 100 million. (If you don’t like the 51 percent assumption, note that Obama would really only need the support of 34 percent of the 100 million non-voters to reach 100 million total supporters, and I don’t think a case can be made that his support among non-voters was below 34 percent.)

All the white privilege in the world doesn’t erase the fact that if you’re a black American, there are at least 100 million people willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. And you don’t need 100 million people, you probably only need one.


Occupational Certification a Guarantee of Quality?

4 Nov 2015 /

Fingerprint

I had fingerprints taken this morning, not the old-fashioned way with an inkpad but with a biometric device that required a certified technician to roll each of my fingers back and forth on a scanner.

I emphasize certified technician because California law requires any individual who rolls fingerprints manually or electronically for licensure, certification and/or employment purposes to be certified by the state Department of Justice. You can’t just put any person off the street in charge of advanced optical technology.

Thanks to the use of an expensive machine vs. an inkpad and the certification requirements, the cost to me of having my fingerprints taken was about $70.

California is big on occupational certification. More than 200 professions from doctor to tree trimmer require certification from one of 42 government bureaus and boards. Does this elaborate and costly web of regulation assure the highest quality of professional service?

Each fingerprint took at least three attempts . . . the machine kept rejecting them due to poor quality and the technician had to re-roll them. One finger I believe required 10 repetitions.

God only knows how many tries it would have taken a non-certified person to complete the job.


The Perfect Summer Beverage

5 Jul 2015 /

Lemonade

What’s better on a hot day than ice-cold lemonade? Rum and coke? Yes, but I can’t drink that at work. I need to start working from home in the summer months . . .


Is Dignity an Obstacle to Success?

27 May 2015 /

Sometimes life requires that we take jobs below our station until we learn skills, offer apologies even when we are wronged, suck-up to power when necessary, work long hours when we “deserve” some rest, risk embarrassment in front of witnesses, risk failure and humiliation, and get rejected by the people we hope to love. In that sort of game, the player unburdened with human dignity usually wins.


The Chaste Song of My Heart

24 Apr 2015 /

I work a lot and live far less than I could, but the moon is beautiful and there are blue stars . . . . I live the chaste song of my heart.

— Garcia Lorca to Emilia Llanos Medinor, November 25, 1920

Global Warming is Starting to Affect Me Personally

8 Apr 2015 /

We have two refrigerators at the office and neither one of them is dispensing any ice this afternoon. The ice dispensers make a noise but no ice is to be had.

Is this due to global warming? I’ve been skeptical about the effects of global warming until today, when it started to affect me personally . . .


With a Little Bit of Luck

16 Mar 2015 /

Venn diagram

A colleague shows me a Venn diagram like this one and asks would it be possible to succeed with only two of the three elements.

I say, “I suppose you could have fun dreaming big and get other people to do all the hard work.”


Joan of Arc

10 Mar 2015 /

A colleague tells me, apropos of nothing in particular, that she’s sure she can finish a challenging assignment because she’s a descendant of Joan of Arc.

“Yes, I thought I saw a resemblance.”

Joan of Arc


Automatic for the People

13 Feb 2015 /

Ripe red apple with green leaf

There’s a bag of apples in the kitchen at work, still in the original packaging, which reads “Automatic, Crisp, Juicy.” What is an “automatic” apple? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Hold on a sec . . . on further review, the packaging says “Aromatic” not “Automatic.” Neither one makes a lot of sense. I took one out and found that if I inhaled deeply enough, it smelled a little bit apple-y.


Sugar Substitutes

12 Dec 2014 /

Sugar, Sugar

I’m trying to find some sugar for my coffee in the break room . . . I see three kinds of sugar substitute — the pink kind, the yellow kind and the blue kind — but no actual sugar. The number of sugar substitutes concerns me. Why are there three different kinds? It’s like they’re not only substitutes for sugar, they’re substitutes for the other sugar substitutes.

Sugar is a natural substance that grows from the earth. I don’t know what any of this other shit is and therefore I’m not putting it in my coffee . . .

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Teaching Computer Science: Mindset

17 Nov 2014 /
Studying

Photo Credit: dongga BS

I’m not comfortable giving people advice that they didn’t ask for, so I usually preface it by saying “Feel free to ignore this . . .”

That being said, I want to talk about the mindset I think you should have for this class, maybe for other classes, maybe even for things outside of school.

Feel free to ignore this . . .

Education has allowed me to make a living doing things that I like and things that I’m good at. A lot of people are not able to say that. Most people, I think, are not able to say that. Most people are like “I hate Mondays” and “Thank god it’s Friday” and that sort of thing.

I have had jobs where I spent the day doing things that I don’t like and I’m not good at and it’s painful. And the amount of money you get paid to do it doesn’t seem to make it any less painful.

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins . . . some of them were serious about education and some of them weren’t. And the ones who weren’t, I don’t want to say they’re all losers, but they’re all . . . disappointments. As I expected they would be. My wife doesn’t like when I say this — she thinks it’s bad karma or something — but I like it when people screw around in school and go on to have disappointing lives because it reinforces everything that I believe to be true about life.

It’s satisfying when people make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, isn’t it? I think it is.

My own mindset, and this doesn’t apply just to school, is that no one is going to outwork me and no one is going to outlearn me. If you’re working on homework or a programming assignment, or you’re studying for a test or quiz, and you get stuck on something, and you try to get unstuck by reading the textbook, or going to the website and reviewing lecture slides or handouts or watching a video or posting a question to the Facebook group, you’re doing things the right way. You should do well in the class, you should do well on the AP exam and I’ll do everything I can to help you do well in the class and on the AP exam.

If you hear yourself saying things like, “I spent the weekend playing 47 straight hours of video games, and by the way, I have no idea what’s going on in this class,” you’re unlikely to do well.

If you’re asking questions about assignments on or after the due date, you’re unlikely to do well.

If you miss a class and don’t check the website to see what you missed, you’re unlikely to do well. Everything we cover in class is on the website, plus a lot of extra stuff as well.

“Nobody’s going to outwork me and nobody’s going to outlearn me.”

Again, if that doesn’t make sense to you, feel free to ignore it . . .


Intelligent Appliances

10 Nov 2014 /

We have two refrigerators in the office break room. On one the status display says REPLACE H2O FILTER; on the other, it says ORDER H2O FILTER. What I can’t figure out is how the refrigerator knows if we’ve ordered the filter . . .


Teaching Computer Science: No School After Halloween

4 Nov 2014 /
Indonesian scholars

Indonesian students crossing a collapsed bridge to get to school

There was no school yesterday because the Newport-Mesa Unified School District at some time in the past noticed that a lot of kids didn’t show up the day after Halloween, so they decided not to have classes on the day after Halloween. Evidently this applies even if Halloween is on a Friday, followed by two weekend days plus an extra hour on the time change. Kids still need that extra day to get ready for academics again.

Some time ago, I saw a news story about kids in Indonesia who had to cross a river via a rope suspension bridge to get to school. Then the bridge partially collapsed so it looked like the photo on the right. And of course the kids are determined to get an education so they’re all basically climbing their way across the river and back every day.

If the bridge collapsed completely, they’d probably swim across.

Meanwhile, American kids need 3 days off to bounce back after Halloween. I showed the class the photo of the kids crossing the river. “This is why everyone hates us,” I told them.

I don’t understand this policy of “kids don’t want to come to school after Halloween so we’ll just take the day off.” I don’t think kids want to come to school any other day either. It’s inconvenient. You have to get up early, sit at a desk and listen to people talk all day. Let’s just cancel school entirely!

If I were in charge of education, not only would schools be open after Halloween but I’d make sure that we covered a ton of critically important material that day so that anyone who wasn’t there would be hopelessly behind and never catch up. I want to see who the competitors are. You don’t want to show up after Halloween? OK . . . have fun at community college.

Work is the same way . . . on the plus side, it gives your life the illusion of meaning but on the other hand, it really cuts into your day. Get used to it kids . . .


By Way of Explanation

14 Aug 2014 /
Bed

I was yelling this morning and I scared the dog. I wasn’t angry at him or at anyone in the house, I was angry about a whole life insurance scam we got in the mail. (That’s redundant, isn’t it? “Whole life insurance scam”?)

Anyway, the dog got scared and crawled under the bed. His joints, especially in his back legs, are not too good anymore and once he got under the bed, he couldn’t get back out. I had to crawl under there myself, roll him on his side, which he didn’t like, and then slide him out.

That’s in case you’re wondering why I showed up late for work this morning looking like I just crawled out from under a bed . . .


The Softball Waivers

24 Jul 2014 /

Our company’s having an in-house softball game tonight, hosted at a field across the street at UC Irvine . . .

Three-Quarter Century Softball Team

Members of the Three-Quarter Century Softball Club: St. Petersburg, Florida (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

That’s not our actual team in the picture, the difference being that the players in the picture look like they may have been athletes at one time.

I’m not playing because I have a piano lesson tonight. (Actually, I wouldn’t have played anyway because I can no longer do things like run and see that used to serve me so well on the diamond all those years ago. But the piano lesson is a convenient excuse.)

Everyone who is playing had to sign a waiver provided by UCI. Good move. Company softball games are rife with injuries. I picture a scenario like this:

Dear UCI Parents,

We regret that your students are not able to graduate on time, but as you know, we’ve had to cut back drastically on our course offerings since the infamous softball lawsuit of 2014.


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